Holy Week in Greece: food and customs

A spit-roast kid an kokoretsi. Credit Jerry Mellin

A spit-roasted kid an kokoretsi. Credit Jerry Mellin

It’s now Holy Week in Greece, almost the end of Lent. Easter is the most important religious festival in the Greek Orthodox calendar, with Christmas being a poor second (or even third). It all begins on Clean Monday, when traditionally people fly kites and makes bracelets out of coloured thread to protect their children during Lent. On Wednesdays and Fridays, meat, fish, dairy produce and oil are not consumed by the more religious. This week, being Holy Week, these strict dietary rules last for the whole week. I have a friend I know I won’t see until Easter Sunday, because he is fasting and that also means no alcohol, so no taverna nights. People survive on lentils dried legumes and vegetables, with lots of horta (wild greens) being consumed (without olive oil, though).

Red eggs for Easter Sunday.

Red eggs for Easter Sunday.

At the moment I have two Easter candles, ready for a trip to the local church on the night of Easter Saturday at midnight. The candles are lit from the holy flame, which is held by the priest, and you have to rush home, with the candle still lit, and make the sign of the cross above the lintel of your door, to ensure you have good luck and protection for the whole of the coming year. One of these candles is not going to be used as it has been very prettily decorated by a friend of mine. The other is not as special, and was given to me last night by a fellow customer at the local taverna.

Greeks enjoying a night out at a bouzoukia in Athens - Stoa Athenaton. Credit: Lynne Evans

Greeks enjoying a night out at a bouzoukia in Athens – Stoa Athenaton. Credit: Lynne Evans

On the whole Greeks are friendly, hospitable people, and Easter time brings out the best in them. They are currently buying their whole lambs to be spit-roasted on Easter Sunday and shared with friends and family. First of all, however, there is the magaritsa soup to be overcome. This is a thin broth made from the innards of the unfortunate lamb that is soon to be roasted. With the lamb comes kokoretsi, which is perfectly fine as long as your don’t know what you are eating. It is the intestines, spleen and other entrails of said lamb.
On the plus side, you do meet a lot of new people in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning, as there are the red eggs to smash, while saying Christos Anesti, (Christ is risen), to which the required response is “Risen indeed” ( Anestis vervaios).
The Easter Sunday lunch goes on for hours, as people chat, drink locally produced wine and eat, of course. Although I don’t really like the smell of the lamb cooking which generally pervades the atmosphere, I get caught up in the celebration and usually manage to forget about it.
I hope you have a very happy Easter! Kalo Pascha!


About lynnee8

I have travelled extensively both for business (I am a teacher and teacher-trainer of English as a Foreign Language) and pleasure. I have just come back from Pakistan where I lived for 4 years. I love Greece and have lived there for more than 10 years although not all at one time.
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